Despite the title, Israel’s disastrously botched 1997 attempt to murder a key Hamas leader plays a minor role in this gripping and discouraging history.
Readers will receive one of many jolts as Sydney Morning Herald chief correspondent McGeough (Manhattan to Baghdad, 2003, etc.) reveals that America and Israel welcomed Islamic fundamentalism to the occupied territories during the 1960s and ’70s, pleased that these pious Muslims despised Yassar Arafat and his secular Palestine Liberation Organization. Khalid Mishal was 11 when his devout family fled to Kuwait after the Israeli conquest of the West Bank in 1967. Brilliant in school, he taught at Kuwait University from 1978 to 1984 while leading members of the Islamic Association of Palestinian Students in often violent clashes against students who supported the PLO. He was involved with Hamas from its founding in 1987, and by 1991, when he moved to Jordan, he was one of the organization’s leaders. Hamas soon launched a murderous campaign of suicide bombings, which led to a equally murderous Israeli response, including the assassination of Hamas leaders. After 30 years of denouncing Arafat as a terrorist, American leaders hoped he would lead the patchy new Palestinian state, but it was too late. While the PLO was largely a guerrilla organization, Hamas spent 20 years providing clinics, schools and food to Palestinian civilians, social services that brought their reward in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections. Outraged that voters had chosen the wrong people, America cut off aid, thereby falling in line with Israel’s policy of encouraging Palestinians to seek peace by making them as miserable as possible.
A journalistic tour-de-force, and a sobering reminder of how little has been achieved during 60 years of Israeli efforts in Palestine.